Although creating a rodeo organization from scratch is no easy task, the National High School Rodeo Association – organizers of the new Wrangler Division for junior-high school students – has been there before. Texas educator Claude Mullins developed the NHSRA in the late 1940s as a way to convince ranch kids in his state to stay in school and earn their diplomas.
Mullins teamed with Alton Allen and Leon Kahanek to create the National Championship High School Rodeo Association. At the time the association sponsored a rodeo only for kids in Texas. Some 100 contestants took part in the first event in June 1947. The following year a similar event was held in New Mexico, and in 1949 Louisiana, Montana and South Dakota also held state rodeos.
The first national finals rodeo was conducted that same year (1949) in Hallettsville, Texas, with champions from each state competing against one another. These five states formed the beginnings of the NHSRA. The association was incorporated in 1961 in South Dakota and nearly 300 contestants from 20 states took part in the national finals that year.
Today the NHSRA boasts more than 10,000 members in 39 states, five Canadian provinces and Australia. Some 1,500 of those members compete each year at the National High School Finals Rodeo – “The World’s Largest Rodeo.”
Through time, the association’s mission has evolved with its membership. Today, the NHSRA’s main purpose is to provide members with opportunities to continue their educations beyond the high-school level. Each year high-school rodeo and its state, province and local clubs hand out more than $700,000 in college scholarships to deserving members.
Through the new Wrangler Division – open to boys and girls in grades six, seven and eight – members will be able to earn college scholarships long before they’ve even considered what the future might hold. Many Wrangler Junior High Finals Rodeo contestants will also get their first taste of national competition thanks to the event. The first junior high finals is set for July 5-8, 2005, in Gallup, N.M.
National High School Rodeo Association, 12001 Tejon, Suite 128, Denver, CO 80234; 303-452-0820, fax 303-452-0912; www.nhsra.org.